Palmer could get 1st test for Raiders vs. Chiefs
AP Sports Writer
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – Jason Campbell’s broken collarbone easily could have derailed what appeared to be a promising season for the Oakland Raiders.
Instead of putting his team’s hopes on the arm of backup Kyle Boller, coach Hue Jackson responded boldly and sacrificed some of the future to bring in a quarterback with a much more impressive pedigree in Carson Palmer.
The move shocked many around the NFL and sent a clear message to Jackson’s locker room that he truly does believe in his mantra that “the time is now.”
“We kind of got the sense that they were ready to go with it, trying to get to the playoffs and win that championship,” defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said. “Man, you can’t complain as a player. You know the man’s going to do what he’s got to do to make your team better.”
The answer to whether the deal to send a 2012 first-round pick and a second-rounder in 2013 that could become another first if the Raiders make it to the AFC title game in one of the next two years will pay off won’t come for a little bit.
But the first test is Sunday when the Raiders (4-2) host the AFC West rival Kansas City Chiefs (2-3) in their final game before their bye.
Jackson did not commit to a starter during the week, as Palmer and Boller shared first-team snaps in practice. There’s a chance both could play Sunday.
“Whatever decision I make somebody is going to go in there and play well,” Jackson said. “They’ve done a great job in practice, but obviously somebody’s got to trot out there first and that’s what we’ll do when that time comes.”
After spending training camp, the preseason and the first six weeks of the regular season in retirement in Southern California, Palmer has had to rush his way back into playing form.
“There’s nothing else to life right now,” Palmer said. “You eat and you do football stuff. Whatever it is whether it’s lifting, conditioning, studying, whatever it may be, watching film. You just have to, there’s such a short amount of time that you just cannot be doing enough.”
Oakland is counting on Palmer to carry on from where Campbell left off before getting hurt last week against Cleveland. After eight straight years without a winning record, the Raiders finally appear to have turned the corner behind Darren McFadden’s running, speedy, big-play receivers on the outside and an improving defense that has done a better job stopping the run the past two weeks.
That’s why Jackson was willing to pay such a high price to get Palmer, the quarterback he believed could lead the Raiders back to the playoffs for the first time since winning the AFC championship in 2002.
“It just shows you that Hue definitely wants to win,” receiver Jacoby Ford said. “He’s going to put us in the right position to win and he’s going to bring the right guys in to win. He’s competitive. We’re all behind him as far as being competitive.”
While the Raiders are adjusting to life without their starting quarterback, the Chiefs have had plenty of practice so far this season with dealing with serious to significant players.
They lost tight end Tony Moeaki in preseason, Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry in the season opener and All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles in Week 2 to season-ending knee injuries.
That contributed to a pair of blowout losses to open the season. Kansas City followed that up with a close loss in San Diego and then wins over struggling Minnesota and Indianapolis before the bye.
“Injuries happen everywhere,” coach Todd Haley said. “Everybody has to deal with them. Oakland’s had to deal with them. They’re not going to cancel the game on Sunday. We have guys that step up and fill those roles. They might not take the place of but they have to fill the role and have to help be a part of us being a better team. Our adjustments to those losses have improved, at least here in the last three weeks.”
The Chiefs are preparing for both Palmer and Boller but know that the key to the Oakland offense remains a running game that has averaged 168.2 yards rushing per game against Kansas City the last three years.
“What they’ve really been able to do here the last couple of years is run the football and I think that starts with McFadden and we’ve got to figure out a way first and foremost to slow him down,” Haley said.
While the key to stopping Oakland’s offense hasn’t changed, attacking their defense is a little different. The Raiders have gotten much more aggressive the past two weeks with defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan frequently sending safeties on blitzes rather than relying on the man coverage, four-man rush that late owner Al Davis always preferred.
According to STATS LLC, the Raiders blitzed 57 times the past two games after having 34 the first four weeks. The change has paid off with opponents averaging 3.4 yards per play against the blitz in wins over Houston and Cleveland.
“You’ve got to worry about a few more looks than you normally do because conventionally you’d go up there and it would be man coverage and that’s what you’re going to get all day,” Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel said. “And now just as a quarterback you just have to be a little bit more aware of where the safeties are, who’s going to be moving in the fronts and all that stuff as well.”